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Gulf Islands

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Pender Island provides splendid opportunities for walking and trails may be found to suit those of all abilities – many such offering spectacular views.

The trail to Oaks Bluff, on the west coast of North Pender, is a mere 0.4 kilometers in length (about a quarter of a mile) but in that short distance it climbs some 66 metres (more than 200 feet). The effort is well worth-while, as these images surely attest.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid


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…as promised.

In need of a brief break from the hurley-burley we retreated to a rented cottage on North Pender for three nights over the Easter weekend. Though perhaps slightly less ‘artsy’ than neighbouring Saltspring, Pender still has a very particular ‘island life’ feel about it, the which we liked very much.

Pender – incidentally – was once a single island, with the two current entities connected by a narrow isthmus. To save locals and visitors from having to sail all the way round to reach the settlements on the other side a canal was dredged in 1903, with a narrow road bridge above to maintain land-based access.

Though we set out from Swartz Bay under lowering skies the weather subsequently smiled upon us – improving day by day.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid
On our first full day on the island we followed the inescapably circuitous route to Poet’s Cove on the south island – the which lies scarcely a few hundred yards (though on the other side of Bedwell Harbour) from the point at which we started. Poet’s Cove – though diminutive – is a major(ish) entry port for yachting folk arriving from the US – the reason for which would become clearer should one consult a map of the southern Gulf Islands. To this end it hosts a small customs dock, which does the great majority of its business in the summer months.

Poet’s Cove also hosts a rather wonderful resort and spa, in which the Girl and I duly submitted ourselves to ninety minute relaxation massages, spells in the ocean-vista’d hot tub and a visit to the steam cave!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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I liked this little sequence of images. The truck crane is used on the smaller islands for building projects and all concerned are so familiar with the procedure that the whole event took less than three minutes – following which tug, barge and truck disappeared in different directions.


Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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The Canadian Power Squadron ‘Boating Essentials’ course that is occupying a fair percentage of my time at the moment is fast approaching its culmination. This Sunday last found those of us taking the course – along with our proctors and other members of the Brentwood Bay squadron and of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue service – participating in the student cruise… an opportunity to put into practice some of the theory that we have been studying these past several months in the classroom.

Courtesy of those generous owners/skippers upon whose vessels we were guests, we started early from Tsehum Harbour, north of Sidney.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidThe morning was spent working our way slowly north west from Sidney round the head of the peninsula and on towards Cowichan Bay. The object was to enable the students practice navigation the old-fashioned (pre-GPS) way.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOur reward for washing up at the correct location? Hot dogs from the barbecue at Genoa Bay courtesy of the squadron, which – thanks to the excellent tuition we have received throughout – was reached in good time for lunch.

This most welcome repast was followed by an opportunity to learn how to recover an unconscious ‘man overboard’ from the icy waters of the Pacific (kudos to the brave dry-suit clad volunteer from Search and Rescue for allowing herself repeatedly to be pushed into the dock!) before heading for home.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPotential recruits – or just after a ‘dog’?

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidTools of the trade!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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I really do hope that I am not going to turn into a massive bore about this, but one of the most splendid features of our new North Saanich home is the view from the reception rooms and the master bedroom of the sea and the mountains. Just to clarify with regard to our location – we are on the east side of the Saanich peninsula – facing east. Our view is of Bazan Bay and of the most southerly of the Gulf Islands, and thence on to the American coast beyond the Georgia Strait.

The garden is well screened by trees and mature shrubs which gives the property a blissfully private feel, but there are also two significant openings through which the vistas are revealed. Through the southern of these can be seen Mount Baker – more than 70 miles away on the American mainland. If – when I get up in the morning –  the sun is showcasing the mountain in glorious silhouette it is virtually impossible not to want to take yet another picture of it…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidThe northern opening looks out over Bazan Bay, with Sidney to one side and Sidney Spit to the other. This view is also extremely pretty in the morning light, but also regularly features the Anacortes ferry – threading its way from Sidney out through the islands to the American coast – and flotillas of yachts of a wide variety of sizes enjoying the sunshine and the peaceful waters.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe full moon a couple of nights back demonstrated that it is not only the sun that can reveal this landscape in all its glory.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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As promised in my previous post – herewith some images from our weekend on Salt Spring Island:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidThis was taken at Ganges:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…and this at Fulford Harbour:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…and finally these from the top of Mount Maxwell – the highest point on the island.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidI promised a few posts back that I would write something about Saltspring (or Salt Spring as the locals apparently prefer it) Island, whence we scurried for a soothing lost weekend before our busy moving-in week.

The expanse of water that lies between Vancouver Island and the mainland – the Georgia Straight – is studded with an archipelago of islands of a diverse assortment of sizes. The more southerly group of these – the Juan de Fucas – lies across the border in the U.S. Those to the north comprise the Gulf Islands which are part of British Columbia. This range of islands is one of the big attractions of the area as far as I am concerned and I intend to spend a fair amount of my time therein upon my as yet unrealised boat – once is has been… er… realised!

The Gulf Islands have a somewhat other-worldly feel to them which is only exacerbated by their being smaller islands off the coast of a larger island – which in turn lies just off the coast of the Canadian mainland. The good inhabitants of Vancouver Island already see themselves as somehow different to British Columbians from the interior and the Gulf Islanders go a whole giant stride further. The closest parallels I can think of – for those who have absolutely no idea what I am blethering on about – are such mildly alternative settlements as St Ives or Glastonbury in the UK – or Tofino in BC. Hopefully you get the idea.

Salt Spring is the largest of the Gulf Islands and the closest to Vancouver Island. The ferry thence from Swartz Bay (but 10 minutes drive from our new abode) takes only 35 minutes and some of that is taken up by the usual jostling for position that is de rigueur in any ferry port before loading or unloading can begin.

Salt Spring has a higher than average population of creatives (including some really quite well known figures) in addition to what might best be described as a healthy cabal of new-ageists… You know – granola munchers, tofu tokers and suchlike! As a result the island positively vibrates with yoga retreaters, livers off the land and no end of artists and crafters. There is a massively popular Saturday market each week in the largest village – the delightful Ganges – at which all manner of home crafted delights may be purchased. The standard of goods on display is astonishing and it is little surprise to learn that Salt Spring has an international reputation across a fair range of fields.

Ganges – incidentally – was once called Admiralty Bay but was renamed in 1859, taking its name from HMS Ganges which was at the Pacific Station from 1857 – 1860 under the command of Captain John Fulford… after whom the small port on the south end of the island is named. Thus are the origins of many of the names of settlements and geological features on the west coast of Canada; a rich palette with surprisingly prosaic roots.

Should you feel that my tone regarding the Gulf Islands – and Salt Spring in particular – is a little too flip or cynical, I plead that I merely jest from affection. I quickly fell in love with Salt Spring but – as is also the case with St Ives and Glastonbury – I wouldn’t want to live there. (The same is not actually true of Tofino, but we all have our weaknesses!).

By way of recompense I will post some glorious images of Salt Spring in my next post.

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